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Posts from — February 2014

Book Review: Haveli by Zeenat Mahal

Title: Haveli
Author: Zeenat Mahal
Paperback: 93 pages
Publisher: Indireads (June 12th 2013)
Genre: Romance
Read: eBook
Stars: ***/5
Buy On: Amazon
Summary: (Goodreads)

It’s the 1970′s in Jalalabad, an erstwhile princely state in Pakistan. Chandni is a self-proclaimed cynic and prefers to be called C. An orphan brought up by her domineering grandmother, a.k.a. The Broad, C is rebellious, quick-witted and stunningly beautiful.

When Taimur, a.k.a. Alpha Male, enters the closed universe of the haveli, he is smitten, but he’ll never admit it.

The stakes get higher when the father, who had so cruelly abandoned her at birth, returns and C’s dream of reuniting with him becomes a reality. But now she has to choose between her father and his hand-picked groom on the one side, and Alpha Male and The Broad on the other.

My Review:

Thanks Indireads for offering me this book to read and review 🙂

Cover: Simple pleasing illustration!

Paper and font: BIG FONT 😀

Readability, language: Easy on the eyes and the mind.

Why did I choose this book: Something about the cover and 1970’s Pakistan caught my fancy.

C or Chandni is a 20 year old growing up 1970’s Jalalabad, Pakistan. She is a product of the times and upper class society – rebellious, sarcastic, and cynical, with a sense of humour. An orphan she was brought by her strict matriarchal grandmother who isn’t ease to please. She rebels against a betrothal arranged by her grandmother only to find that she is attracted to the guy.
While she’s figuring all of this out, the father who had abandoned her as a child turns up to reclaim her and her affections but not alone. He brings along with him another suitor for her hand. Who will C choose – her grandmother or her father?

When I think about joint families, extended families, old school families or matriarchal families I think of old houses, sprawling old buildings and havelis that were as much a part of the families as the people who lived in them. From that point of view the title makes sense. The cover is a simple pleasing illustration but I couldn’t make out the haveli in it. As for the blurb, it was definitely captivating and interesting, it was what got me to read the book.

As I read Haveli I was reminded of a lot classic romances but being set in 1970’s Pakistan makes the plot feel new. It has the classic conflict of beautiful girl and dashing boy who start off on the wrong foot. The boy is so mature that he can see through the girls immaturity and goes about wooing her is a weird tangential way while the girl is smitten but doesn’t see it and fights it to the end. In the midst of all this throw in a long lost father, a matriarchal grandmother, a conniving suiter and an extended family and you’ve got multiple plots playing out.
Chandni or C as she prefers to be called, is in the middle of all the drama as protagonist and we see it all unfold through her eyes and mind.

Set in 1970’s towns of Jalabad and Cholistan in Pakistan, Mahal does a good job of describing the life of upper-class highly-educated society. From the clothes to language, I felt transported to that time. I was so reminded of old time serials, set in that time, that I had watched as a child.

Haveli has a fair number of well drawn out characters – Chandni or C, Bi Amma or the Broad, Baba and Bua, Taimur or Alpha Male, Chandni’s father Shen Jahan and more. Though there are a lot of characters all of them seem to have a motive to being in the story, however not all characters complete their individual stories. I was left wondering about what happened to a few characters like Faisal,Shen Jahan and his wife at the end of the book.

C typical to her nature gives most of the characters interesting names from classic literature and switches around the names – from Heathcliff to Mr. Darcy – on based on her mood. The throwing in of character names was fun in the beginning but towards the end it was a bit of a drag.

On the whole Haveli isn’t all that bad but towards the end it feels rushed and incomplete. The build-up to climax and the final union of the lovers left me with questions. Characters hanging in story loops with no conclusion in sight. I would have liked to hear about what happened to Shen Jahan and Faisal now that their plans are thwarted.

That said I did enjoy the romance between Chandni and Taimur. Taimur is so the suave gentleman who can set a woman’s nerves tingling. And Chandni is that silly nitwit who has a great wit but loses her head in tight spots. They make for a good couple and story.

The story being told by Chandni lends an insight into the life and mind of a 20 year old affluent girl in 1970’s Pakistan. The language is a good mix of the Hinglish we speak here in the subcontinent and the English we try hard to speak, it made me laugh sometimes as I could almost here the words and accent in my head.

Mahal keeps a good pace for two-thirds of the book, then suddenly it just jumps forward and closes, almost as if Mahal was suddenly reminded she was writing a novella and was running out of words.

Overall a good book. I enjoyed the peek into the 1970’s and Pakistan but I do wish Mahal had closed all loops and told the whole Shah Jahan story. If you are someone who likes old world stories, you’ll enjoy reading Haveli. It’s worth your time!

About the Author:
Zeenat Mahal has been writing for as long as she can remember. She has an MPhil in English literature from Government College Lahore and is currently doing an MFA in creative writing from Kingston University, London. She is currently working on her next novel. You can connect with Zeenat on her Facebook page.

Buy On: Amazon

February 18, 2014   No Comments

Book Review: Done With Men by Shuchi Singh Kalra

Title: Done With Men
Author: Shuchi Singh Kalra
Paperback: 109 pages
Publisher: Indireads Incorporated ( February 14th 2014)
Genre: Chick Lit
Read: ebook
Stars: ***/5
Buy On: Amazon
Summary: (Goodreads)

Travel journo, Kairavi Krishna (Kay) has had it with men. After a series of disasters (losers, philanderers, leeches, mama’s boys and possessive psychos), she is all too tempted to walk out on the prospect of ever finding love. Accompanied by her best friend and flat-mate Baani, she sets off for Goa, hoping to get away from her miserable love life and vowing to stay clear of the male species.

Goa however, has a host of surprises in store for her. Ricky, her pesky ex-boyfriend, is busy painting the town red with his hot new girlfriend. Now what is poor Kay to do other than overdose on vodka, smoke pot, get an outrageous tattoo and fall off the hotel balcony? She wakes up in the hospital to the tender ministrations of Dr.Vivian D’Mello–young, suave and handsome as hell. Will Kay stick to her guns or will she fall for his ridiculously sexy charms? And what’s up with the mixed signals he’s giving out?

My Review:

Thanks Shuchi Singh Kalra for offering me your book to read and review 🙂

Cover: Simple, bright and eye-catchy!

Paper and font: So large, I had to manually reduce it 🙂

Readability, language: Easy on the eyes and mind.

Why did I choose this book: Really needed some light reading and a book on a girl done with men seemed perfect for that 😀

After her most recent heart-break Kay jumps at the chance when she gets an assignment in Goa. She hopes that the distance from her ex and the Goa carnival atmosphere will ease her heart and heal it. But in Goa she bumps into her ex, which leads to a night of debauchery, which in turn lands her in the arms of a rather hot doctor. Oh Kay, what will happen of you…

‘Done With Men’ are words I’ve said and heard innumerable times after a break-up but they are rarely final, somehow love does happen again sooner or later. Looking at it that way, the title is appropriate for a book where the heroine falls out and then right back into love. The cover caught my eye with a simple illustration of a woman sitting alone by the beach by herself and the blurb was interesting enough to make me want to read the book.

The plot of heart-break followed by finding prince charming is an old one but Kalra spins it well and it almost feels new. The book revolves around the life of Kay and is true to life in that Kay almost makes a fool of herself at every bend of her love story. It’s something we have all done when we were young. A simple story without any major sub-plots or complications.

Mostly set in present day Goa, Kalra uses the carnival and Goa’s party scene to set the stage for her story. That’s about all it does, it’s that hazy backdrop with not much detail or clarity. However this one is forgivable as Kalra focuses in-depth on Kay and hey, it’s a novella.

Though Kay is the central character, there are quite a few other supporting characters. There’s Baani, Kay’s best friend and flat-mate, Ricky, her ex, and Dr.Vivian D’Mello, Kay’s love interest among others. All the characters have a role to play and they all tie up neatly in the end. I liked most of the characters too, but I wish Vivian had had more spine, he seemed a bit of a sissy (for want of a better word).

The first half of the book is fast and gripping, especially when Kalra hints at some girl-on-girl action, but she veers away all to soon to chase the man and there it gets a little dull. I could have done with more drama there. However Kalra ties up all the loose ends and pairs up characters quite neatly at the end.

Over all this is a good, quick read in-between larger books.

About the Author:
Shuchi Singh Kalra is not just a writer, but also an editor and blogger. She has been published in a large number popular magazines over the years since she started writing in 2005. She is also the owner of Pixie Dust Writing Studio, a writing and editing firm and the Indian Freelance Writers Blog. Shuchi lives with her army husband and toddler. You can connect with Shuchi on her facebook page.

Buy On: Amazon

February 13, 2014   2 Comments